Drew Kimble of Skinny Artist shares tips on how to network as a creative introvert, with minimal tears.
As artists, most of us understand that there is a time to create and a time to get out there and sell our creative work. Now having said that, those of us who are introverts would usually rather jab a pointy stick in our eye than have to mix and mingle at the local art fair or gallery opening.
Unfortunately, these days we can’t always sit back and wait for someone else to notice us and our creative work. As much as I would like to sit in front of my laptop, drinking coffee, and writing book after book while people gobble them up like Skittles, that’s just not how the world works.
Sooner or later, we’re going to have to take off our sweatpants, put on our uncomfortable shoes, and get ourselves out there to connect with our audience, and perhaps even sell a few things along the way.
We don’t dislike people, we just find them exhausting
As introverts, we are usually pretty good at communicating online. It’s only when we are forced to attend a live event, that we begin to freak out.
Whether it’s a large charity event or a small local art fair, there are usually too many people to keep track of at these types of events. Too many names and faces to remember. Too many pointless stories about the weather, and too much information that is coming at us from every direction.
For someone with an introverted personality, any type of large event can quickly become exhausting and overwhelming. There are, however, a few strategies we can use to make the experience a little less painful.
5 ways to make live events suck less for creative introverts:
1. Conserve your energy beforehand
If you know in advance that you’re going to be attending a live event, it’s often a good idea to schedule some downtime beforehand to help prepare yourself both mentally and physically. This usually means finding some quiet, solitary activity to do before your planned event. This not only can help you relax and distract yourself from any anxiety you might be feeling, but it will also help preserve your energy for later.
Taking a quick walk (or run) outside is often a great way for introverts to get away, organize their thoughts, and prepare themselves for an upcoming social event. Even if there’s nowhere to go, just taking a few laps around the parking lot is usually a far better option than sitting in the bustling hotel lobby.
2. Curiosity can create conversation
The next time you are at a large event, look around and notice what other people are wearing. Before they even open their mouths, notice how some people are able to attract people’s attention by what they are wearing. This ability to stand out not only helps them to appear more confident and memorable to those around them, but it can often be an effective conversation starter as well.
Any type of unusual or colorful item that you can wear can help to spark a conversation. This could include an antique necklace, scarf, watch, earrings, lapel pin, cameo, cufflinks, glasses, rings, etc… Keep in mind, however, that more is not necessarily better. It’s usually a good idea to limit yourself to wearing only one or two of these unusual items at a time, because there’s a fine line between being interesting and just being weird.
3. Look for common ground
Whether we are an introvert or extrovert, most of us prefer to be around other people who are similar to us and like the same things. Clothing and accessories can not only be good for attracting attention (see #2), but they can also give you some valuable insight into that person’s hobbies and interests, which might give you enough information to keep a conversation going.
When you find yourself in a room surrounded by people you don’t know, always be on the lookout for things that you may have in common with someone else. This could be a favorite fashion or accessories brand, a sports team logo, or even the brand of someone’s cell phone, smartwatch, or tablet.
4. Find a good wingman (or woman)
One of the best things we can do as introverts when attending a large event is to bring along a chatty extroverted friend to serve as our social wingman. This way he or she can do all of the heavy conversational lifting when it comes to making introductions and small talk while you strategically wait for the right opportunity to join in.
5. When in doubt, smile and nod
As introverts, we sometimes get so worked up about what we are going to talk about, that we forget that most people out there are simply looking for an opportunity to talk and connect with someone else.
It turns out that being interesting is not nearly as important as being interested in what the other person has to say. Even in today’s hyper-connected world, there are a lot of people out there who feel more isolated and lonelier than ever. Simply by being a willing listener, you differentiate yourself and become someone people are naturally drawn to.
Even though as introverts we may not always feel comfortable networking at large events, with a little planning, we can still connect with our potential customers and maybe even make a few new friends along the way.
Drew Kimble is a writer, teacher, and head custodian of the SkinnyArtist.com creative community. He is also the author of “Quiet Impact: A Creative Introvert’s Guide to the Art of Getting Noticed,” which shows how you can get yourself and your creative work noticed without having to pretend to be something you aren’t.